global voices

Ideas Should Have No Borders, Physical nor Linguistic

We still live in a world hindered by the consequences of that biblical Tower of Babel where language is a great barrier. But of course, we rebel against such tyrannies creating ways to find and reach each other through translation (or awkward hand gesturing). I found this wonderful video from TED which brings together online volunteers from around the globe who translate the talks to their own respective languages, aiding in TED's mission of spreading ideas worth spreading. 

I myself volunteer with Global Voices, an international network of bloggers and citizen journalists who report on issues from around the world, by translating English news pieces to Filipino (Tagalog), along with hundreds of volunteers translating in 29 other languages. Online volunteering and translating has eliminated time and geographical constraints (something I write about in more depth in this TalentEgg piece). Getting involved in this way not only spreads the reach of information and ideas to as many nooks and crannies of the world as possible, but it also gives voice to those who aren't as often heard from in the mainstream media.

So why do I translate? Like many of my fellow volunteer translators, I do so because I'm a big believer of open and shared knowledge. Information and ideas should have no borders, physical or linguistic. And it's not just a selfless act of generosity for me. Translating, especially on a platform like Global Voices, is actually a selfish and active act of taking myself outside of my filter bubble or echo chamber and exposing myself to new ideas and softer, unpopular voices. And it keeps me sharp, giving me an opportunity to practice my mother tongue even when most of my daily communications take place in English.

Global Voices Summit 2010 -- Santiago, Chile (Photo from GV).

It's truly a wonderful endeavour and I recommend all you bilingual, trilingual, or multilingual(!) folks to contribute even just a couple hours of your time a week or a month to translate. I leave you with a beautiful quote from anthropologist and ethnobotanist Wade Davis...

A language is not just a body of vocabulary or a set of grammatical rules. Language is the flash of the human spirit. It's a vehicle through which the soul of each particular culture comes into the material world. -- Wade Davis


Tech for Change - July Round Up!

As I wrote a month ago, in an attempt to inspire my co-workers at jhr to take on and embrace social media, I've started a sharing program where I highlight how various non-profit organizations are successfully using social media. Take a look at this month's picks!


Epic Change started "TweetsGiving" in 2008 with the aim of raising over $10,000 to build a classroom in Tanzania. How? By getting their networks to mass tweet about it! People were asked to tweet about something they were thankful for and include a link to the campaign's website where they could donate. And bam! 48 hours later, they got themselves $10,000 to build their classroom. And today, the kids educated in that classroom are tweeting too (read their tweets here). Pretty cool, I think. A prime example of how Twitter can be used to exponentially leverage word of mouth!, an international campaign that is working to find solutions for the climate crisis, has been actively using videos to convey their message to the public. I had a chance to speak to Jon Warner,'s Internet Director, and he told me that with all the different languages in the world, they wanted to come up with something that was truly universal and inclusive. That's why their promo video was made entirely out of symbols that anyone anywhere would be able to understand.

Global Voices is a community of more than 300 bloggers and translators from around the world who "aggregate, curate, and amplify the global conversation online" by emphasizing voices that are not traditionally heard in mainstream media. They cover all sorts of topics from around the world in an attempt to make the Internet a more even playing field. Browse their website to get an alternative view on some of today's major issues. And while you're at it, watch this TED Talk by Co-Founder Ethan Zuckerman to gain a better understanding of his vision for this community and for the Internet as a whole. It's one of my favourite TED Talks and it's incredibly fascinating, I promise!